After recently launching a pilot program to test auctions on eBay, golf equipment retailer and manufacturer Golfsmith already knows one thing: the format works. According to director of e-commerce and direct marketing Bob Hermansen, a Tiger Woods Master’s commemorative putter went for more than $1,000 on eBay, well over its original retail price.
It’s a lesson on why some things do well at auction and others don’t. The auction dynamic and product lifecycle factors worked together to make the putter a winner for Golfsmith at auction. Golf clubs are a product category in which manufacturers push out new models each year. That leaves plenty of quality merchandise available for clearance–-just the sort of opportunity that attracts buyers to eBay in droves. And as with other hard-to-find collectible items available in only limited supply, competitive bidding drove up the price.
Though it worked for the putter, Hermansen realizes it won’t work that way for all of Golfsmith’s excess inventory. Golfsmith also has tried auctions with other, more widely available products, which failed to move even when bidding was opened at $1.
“We’re a multi-channel retailer so we have a lot of places where we can liquidate merchandise,” he says. “We’re not looking at online auctions as a way to liquidate everything, we’re looking at it for specific things.” One of them is sets of used golf clubs. Traded in at Golfsmith stores or via its web site for newer models, many retain substantial value. While the used clubs are popular on resale at the store level, Golfsmith has a large supply and is seeking more ways to sell them, says Hermansen.
His goal for Golfsmith’s eBay auctions is “not to be out of pocket in a place where we know people are shopping,” he says. “There’s a shift going on in where people are going to buy less expensive golfing equipment. A large amount of it is being sold on eBay. We’re following people to where they want to shop.”